It was a bright early morning in K-Gudi. I have got to admit, the dry season does have its own charm and moments that make the forest magnificent. It makes it easier for our less trained eyes to spot the wild. But, the Rain has its own magic. Making for a surreal lush green landscape, chalking out deep contrasts between the wildlife and their terrain. Rain, brings with it, a sense of Joy. I am quite in the splits between what I prefer more. I cant seem to decide.
This morning, however, the weather seemed perfectly splendid. Our naturalist told us pointing to a hill, that he had spotted tigers, a mating pair perhaps, walking up the hill just the previous evening. We had a good chance of seeing them today.
This was already my second day in the BRT Tiger reserve, and ever since, there was no sign of any large mammal. But that is the beauty about going into forests with trained Naturalists. You get to learn a LOT. Even more when you don’t find the “Famous”, cause you then start to observe things that were seemingly oblivious till now. You spot that endemic flora, that owl perched on a tree, that bug making a strange noise, or the smell of the elephant that just passed-by or even that of a tiger that has recently spritzed the tree near-by.
On this day too, we didn’t get to spot them tigers. But we got super lucky. We found this guy. Who I heard my naturalist say, is rarer to spot in this Jungle. The Not-So-Humble “Indian Tree Shrew”. To be Honest, I had no idea what I was looking at. It seemed like a squirrel but I knew it wasn’t one. It seemed like a rodent too, but not something I had encountered before.
This soon became the highlight of our trip. I jumped with joy as our Naturalist explained what this was.
This Enigmatic and evolutionarily unique species is Endemic to Southeast Asia. And this one (also called the Madras Tree Shew) is only found in the southern peninsular India. These solitary, reddish-brown, large eared, omnivorous small animals, about the size of a squirrel perhaps, are found at elevations of around 1,400 meters in areas(hilly of course) covered with shrubs and stone. As against what their names suggest, they seem to like the forest floor more than the trees. Their high metabolic rates can lead to a daily food intake of up to their body weight and so they are in constant search of food (Possibly this one was too when we found him)
Sadly, very little is known about these wonderbeings. But you can read more, if you are interested here : https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Anathana_ellioti/